The kinsman-redeemer seems like an odd ritual in our society. We don't understand the deep connection that the ancient Israelites had to their tribal and family allotments which were determined by God after the conquest of Canaan. Nor do we grasp the significance of carrying on the family name through the birth of children, particularly sons. So the picture of men debating over property and marriage in the gates of the city seems strange and out of style. We really don't comprehend the sacrifice Boaz made in order to marry Ruth and fulfill the Law. By agreeing to redeem Elimelech’s land and marry Ruth Boaz in essence was stopping the continuation of his family name and perpetuating that of Elimelech’s. We might say Boaz was losing himself and becoming Elimelech. We all know stories of people who have reinvented themselves to become a success but replacing our identity to carry on someone else’s legacy is unheard of. Yet that was really what the role of the kinsman-redeemer was all about. Because we do not understand the implications of that act in the ancient world we miss an important lesson about our Savior.
There were several regulations designed by the Lord which the kinsman-redeemer had the ability to fulfill if he so desired. Under the Law, a near relative could avenge a wrongfully slain relative's murder (Num. 35:12-34) or if he had the financial resources, redeem a poor relative out of slavery by paying the acquired debt. Property could be redeemed and returned to the family as well (Lev. 25:25; 48-49). In this way Boaz is an exemplary kinsman-redeemer because he takes Ruth as his wife and buys the land belonging to Naomi's family back thus returning their inheritance and continuing the line of Elimelech and his son; Ruth's late husband (Gen. 38:8; Dt. 25:5; Ruth 3-4).
The role of the kinsman-redeemer teaches us a wonderfully important theological lesson. Only a near relative is qualified to pay the price that frees a person from slavery, or to buy back property that was lost or sold. We had “lost” our land and family status at the Fall (Gen. 3) and were considered slaves to sin (Rom. 6:1-6). When Christ gave up His heavenly glory, and took on human flesh and nature (Phil. 2:5-8), He became qualified to pay the terrible price for our salvation (Heb. 2:14-17). Without His relation to humanity through flesh and blood, Christ would not have qualified as a kinsman-redeemer.
God is certainly the "ultimate" Kinsman-Redeemer of His people across the pages of the Old Testament. Trapped as slaves in Egypt with no possible hope of release, the people needed someone to step in and bring them back to their land. The Lord rescued them and brought about their redemption (Ex. 6:6; 12:51). But His actions are not limited to the Old Testament; they are a part of our story too. In Ruth's story (where we have the clearest picture of the kinsman-redeemer in action), Boaz becomes a picture of the Messiah who would be sent to redeem humanity from the bondage of sin. Jesus has performed the same actions a kinsman-redeemer. He has offered Himself as a payment for all, restoring our lost inheritance and redeeming us when it seemed we were as destitute as Naomi and Ruth (Eph. 2:13-22; Heb. 4:14-16). The practice of the kinsman-redeemer is an illustration of the greatest love of all (Jn. 15:12-13) and Jesus has perfectly fulfilled this role. So then, how should we respond to a redemption as great as this (1 Pet. 1:17-21)?
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
https://www.annhlefevre.com; Olivetreeann@mail.com; https://www.linkedin.com/in/annhlefevre; https://www.facebook.com/ann.h.lefevre